Wednesday, February 24, 2016

More Plots Revealed, Kenseth Revels In His Importance


It's been a few weeks, but I was being productive on some paid projects, so I hope you will pardon the lack of updates.

Anyway, we'll be leaving Efraim for the moment and returning to Kenseth and Angela, who had just met Angela's mysterious benefactor.

The tall man slowly circled the room, occasionally glancing toward Kenseth and Angela.

"You may call me Tobias," he said. "Right now all you need to know is that I have been watching you."

"Why would you be watching me?" asked Kenseth. "I have done little that might draw attention from the wider world. In fact, I've gone out of my way to not be noticed."

Tobias smirked and stopped his slow walk, arms clasped behind his back. "You have done that because I asked your parents to keep a low profile and to pass that trait on to you. In fact, you have done very well in that regard, but since I've known you since the day you were born, I had a leg up on keeping tabs on you."

Kenseth nodded, not seeming to be all that surprised. Angela's face was expressionless, other than a slight tinge of worry.

"Master," she said. "Why are we accelerating the timetable?"

"Because circumstances are changing rapidly," said Tobias. "In fact, they have changed considerably since this morning. I had hoped to postpone our meeting a few more days, but that's now unavoidable. The forces aligned against us will shortly be aware of what we are trying to do, and so we must stay one step ahead of them."

"You need my skills, obviously," said Kenseth. "But I'm not much more than a brawler. I can swing a sword and shoot an arrow, but it's not like I've been out on the training field every day."

"You have a particular talent you are aware of only in the fact that it hasn't manifested yet," said Tobias.

"So my mother told me," said Kenseth. "I always knew someone, you as it turns out, was watching me. I could feel your eyes from time to time, but my parents always told me not to worry. Why aren't you talking to them? They're both still alive and not far from here."

"Their part in this drama is over," said Tobias. "That being said, I speak to them frequently. We didn't want to involve you before it was time, but we didn't want you to be completely ignorant of your potential, either. Just in case someone picked up on who your parents were, we wanted you to be ready to defend yourself."

"Excuse me," said Angela, "But I'm kind of in the dark here."

Tobias smiled again, "Kenseth here is the son of two very talented people who helped me out before he was born. In the process, they were exposed to some magical energies which I thought might affect any children they might have. They only had our Kenseth here, but I was right."

"What can he do?" asked Angela.

"We still don't know," said Tobias. "Other than he might be able to level entire cities, or simply fry an ant. The possibilities are numerous . . . and quite exciting in a way."

"I'm glad you approve of your little experiment," said Kenseth, "But I still haven't said yes, and I still have no idea what's going on."

"Right now, another one of my associates is retrieving an object of considerable power," said Tobias. "Once retrieved, which I believe will happen in the next day or so, the forces we are fighting will find out what we have and will suspect what we are trying to do."

"You still haven't told me anything," said Kenseth.

"Of course not," said Tobias, breaking into a huge grin. "That would take all the fun out of it."

"I was supposed to tell you we are going on a journey and that we need your sword arm," said Angela. "I have my own magical talents, plus I'm pretty good with a staff."

"Both of you will be needed in the days ahead," said Tobias. "We are assembling a small group, about a half dozen people, to undertake this mission. The reason we needed to make contact with you now, Kenseth, is your parents entrusted you with a talisman, and asked you to hide it even from them. Do not tell me where it is," he said, putting his hand up to stop Kenseth from interrupting.

"I will leave this book here," he continued, pulling a small book from his jacket and placing it on the counter by the wall where the wares were displayed. "I want you to read this. It contains much information. Then you will come see me tonight and we will talk more. Angela will show you the way. Now, if you will excuse me, I must depart before I am discovered."

Waving his hand, Tobias opened another portal and stepped through it. "Be mindful of who you talk to, and we will speak later," he said as the portal closed behind him.

"That was interesting," said Kenseth. "I'm glad you know even less than I do, it makes me feel important."

"You're funny," said Angela.

Just then, a shadow darkened the door. Whirling around, Angela's hand went to her belt and the dagger she had sheathed there. Three men dressed in black entered. They were not armed, but they did not look like they had come here for pleasantries.

"Good afternoon," said the man in front, a small, thin man with a clean-shaven, angular face. "I hope we are not disturbing you, but I am afraid we have business with the proprietor that can not wait."

"I'm as close as you're going to get right now," said Kenseth. "What can I help you with?"

"We wish to have the Talisman you were just discussing with our friend, Tobias," said the small man. "He is mistaken in what is about to happen, and we would like to guarantee your safety and prevent any accidents in your future."

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

In Which Efraim Goes Somewhere He's Not Wanted


It's been two weeks, and for that I apologize, but last week got away from me and every time I sat down to write, I either ended up doing 10 other things, or I stared at the screen for about 20 minutes before moving on to something else.

Anyway, back to the story: When last we left, Barbaro had just told Efraim the reason for sending him to Bellisaria, he had to retrieve an item called Vanya's Clock, an essential component for traveling through time, which is what Barbaro was planning on doing in order to stop the Immortals Rad and Ixiom from destroying Alphatia in AC 1010. The current year is AC 1012.

Efraim stepped over the dead body of the jaguar he had just killed and continued to move slowly through the field. Ahead of him the field began to rise, and the surrounding forest began to close in. Just a few yards before the treeline, there was a large Tulip tree by a doorway dug into the hillside. There was no door, and the entrance appeared to be man made.

"This has all kinds of bad written all over it," said Efraim to Barbaro via the magical connection Barbaro had opened.

"Would you like some help?" asked Barbaro. "I can't do much from here but I might be able to summon something and teleport it to you. I'm afraid going myself will attract too much attention."

"Not yet," said Efraim. "I'm afraid throwing a lot of powerful magic around might trigger something. Keep an eye on me, though. Don't break the connection."

Efraim moved past the tree, and looked the entrance over. Pulling a lens out of one of his pockets, he fit it over his eye and looked around again. Grunting in satisfaction, he put the lens away and slowly moved into the cave entrance.

The light from outside only came in a few feet, and Efraim reached into a different pocket and pulled out a small bag. Opening it, a light shown from inside, and he pulled out a small, copper coin that was the source of the illumination.

"Your spell never ended, Barbaro," Efraim said. "This is one of the most useful items you ever made for me."

"The spell is designed to be permanent," said Barbaro, "I'm surprised more people don't have and use little trinkets like this instead of lighting torches that just burn out and can start fires if you don't look where you're waving the thing."

"Exactly," said Efraim, placing the coin in a headband and sliding it on top of his head. "And now both my hands are free."

Efraim resumed his slow exploration of the corridor, which was barely wide enough for two people to walk abreast, and just barely taller than his lean frame. The corridor definitely had been worked, but not finished as their were ax marks and some timber supports along the sides. Wary of a trap that might collapse the ceiling on him, Efraim pulled his lens and peered around the area again.

"Mechanical traps won't show up on that lens," said Barbaro.

"I'm aware of that," said Efraim. "That's why I wanted to make sure there weren't any magical ones first."

Efraim shuffled forward slowly, testing the surface, and tapping the sides of the corridor occasionally. Just when he thought he was making too much noise, he heard shuffling from down the corridor. By now, he was about 50 feet into the hillside, and the daylight behind him was just a backdrop, meaning his illuminated coin was the sole source of light now.

He didn't have to wait long as a figure shambled into his light. Clearly dead, it continued to move haltingly, it's dead eyes staring and vacant. It's death wound, a nasty gash along the throat, evidence it did not die a natural death. Efraim didn't waste any time, stepping forward and slashing at the thing's head. His blade cut right through the rotting flesh, decapitating the walking corpse, which collapsed in a heap beside him and no longer attempted to move.

The head bounced a few feet away, and Efraim gave it a good look to make sure it wouldn't try and bite him as he moved past. For the moment, it appeared dead for good.

"That wasn't a ghoul," remarked Barbaro.

"Most people don't know the difference between a ghoul, a zombie, or other kind of walking corpse," said Efraim. "So here's hoping they continue to be wrong about ghouls in my favor."

Moving forward again, Efraim saw the corridor come to an end, and a large door blocking further progress. The door appeared to be made of solid granite, with a handle made of bronze affixed to the right side. There was no window on the door, but there was an hourglass about a foot long carved into the door at eye level.

In front of the door was another corpse, but this corpse seemed truly dead, and appeared to have been there for quite some time as there was no smell, and what flesh remained appeared to be no thicker than parchment. Efraim nudged it with his boot, sword raised in case he needed it, but nothing happened.

Bending closer and pulling out his lens, Efraim examined the body, which appeared to be male, dressed in leather armor that had not begun to rot. A crossbow bolt of some kind was sticking out of the body's midsection, but a quick glance around the door showed no crossbow, or an apparent culprit for the murder.

Efraim pocketed his lens again, grabbed the body, and began to move it. That's when he heard a *click.* Calling on his enhanced reflexes, Efraim dropped straight back and went into a roll as a crossbow bolt shot from the left side, barely missing him as he tumbled out of the way.

Efraim did not have any time to recover as another bolt shot out from the right, almost as if it knew where he was, and he dropped to the floor to avoid being hit. Springing back to his feet, he flicked his wrist, turning his sword to deflect a third bolt and then dodging to his right to avoid a fourth bolt.

Efraim dropped to a three-point stance, sword held in front of him, waiting for a fifth bolt, but the attack had ceased for the moment. "Did you see where they came from?"

"Yes," said Barbaro. "The pressure plate you activated tripped a magical defense system, which is probably why your lens didn't pick it up. It flared to life after the first bolt flew."


"Don't trip the pressure plate again."

Smirking, Efraim again approached the door, careful to avoid the pressure plate. However, the conundrum he now faced was the body still mostly was on the plate, and he would have to move it again, assuming he got the door open.

Efraim stared at the door, willing it to give up its secrets. Reaching into another pouch, Efraim produced a small red gem. Holding it between his finger and thumb, he snapped it loose and it hit the floor, spinning. As it moved, it began to pick up speed, it's small facets reflecting the light of his coin all over the room.

Efraim sheathed his sword, laid down, and then pulled the corpse on top of him, rolling into a defensive position as he did so. Crossbow bolts flew from both walls, the door, and a spear flew down from the ceiling, chasing the lights reflected by the gem. One bolt thunked into the corpse on top of him, but in a few moments, all was quiet again.

"How did you know that would work?" asked Barbaro.

"If whatever was tracking me was going by motion, I figured the gem's movement and trick of the light would confuse it. I wasn't wrong," said Efraim as he regained his feet. "Now, about this door"

To be Continued . . . .